. Social Policies The policy area of social affairs can be considered the soul of the Social Democratic Party. After Chancellor Schröder had started with the Agenda 2010 reform program, the spd had to face a new competitor in this policy area: the Left
The Social Democrats at the Crossroads
Andreas M. Wüst
, although it was perhaps not quite as boring as recent electoral cycles. There were two big developments in the nine months before election day in September 2017. First was the saga of Martin Schulz and his Social Democratic Party ( spd ). A prominent social
M. Anne Sa'adah
Joschka Fischer (b. 1948), Germany’s foreign minister and for several
years one of the country’s most popular politicians, is a man of
the moment, of consequence both domestically and beyond his
country’s borders. Nationally prominent as leader of the “realo” faction
of the Greens, he was instrumental in turning a protest movement
into the partner in power of the Social Democratic Party
(SPD). During the Kosovo crisis, he was a key figure in securing
German participation in the NATO intervention. He has played an
influential role in the unfolding debate about institutional reform
within the European Union. During the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian
violence, he has actively tried to bring the parties to the table.
Mark E. Spicka
Perhaps the most remarkable development in the Federal Republic
of Germany since World War II has been the creation of its stable
democracy. Already by the second half of the 1950s, political commentators
proclaimed that “Bonn is not Weimar.” Whereas the
Weimar Republic faced the proliferation of splinter parties, the rise
of extremist parties, and the fragmentation of support for liberal and
conservative parties—conditions that led to its ultimate collapse—the
Federal Republic witnessed the blossoming of moderate, broadbased
parties.1 By the end of the 1950s the Christian Democratic
Union/Christian Social Union (CDU), Social Democratic Party
(SPD) and Free Democratic Party (FDP) had formed the basis of a
stable party system that would continue through the 1980s.
This article examines the complex interplay between the American military governor and German political leaders through an analysis of two crises that occurred over the making of the Basic Law. Why did a trial of strength between General Lucius Clay and the Social Democratic Party leadership in March and April 1949 come about? Understanding Clay's intervention in the politics of constitution-making in occupied Germany requires a more probing investigation than references to the temperament of a “proconsul” or a bias against a left-wing party. The analysis of Clay's intervention in this account shows how the Social Democrats evaded and challenged directives from the occupation authorities, and illuminates the limits of his influence over German framers of the Basic Law.
‘Tis the season of anniversaries in Germany. 2009 unfolded like a hit
parade of history. March ushered in the sixtieth anniversary of the founding
of the Federal Republic and May witnessed the sixtieth anniversary of
the end of the Berlin Blockade. After a summer lull, the seventieth
anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland fell on 1 September
and in October, the twentieth anniversary of the first Monday demonstration
in Leipzig took place. Finally, the month of November offered up a
major date—the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall—and a
lesser one, suited more for the political connoisseur: the fortieth anniversary
of the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) ratification of the Godesberger
Program. 2010, of course, culminates in October with the twentieth
anniversary of unification.
William E. Paterson and James Sloam
The 2009 German federal election marked a devastating defeat for the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The debacle led some commentators to speculate about the end of the SPD as a “catch-all party“ and—given the recent poor performance of center-left parties across Europe—“the end of social democracy.“ In this article, we contextualize the result of the 2009 Bundestag election within the settings of German party politics and European social democracy, and show how the electoral disaster for the SPD can be explained by broad, long-term political developments. We nevertheless argue that the German Social Democrat's defeat in 2009 provides an opportunity for renewal at a time when the governing Conservative-Liberal coalition—already in disarray—must take some tough decisions with regard to the resource crunch in German public finances.
In October 1998 the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens1
formed a coalition government, the first ever between these parties at
the federal level. In more ways than one, this new coalition marked a
watershed in Germany’s post-1945 development. Since 1945, Germany
had been a democracy in which political parties hold an especially
privileged position. This “party-state” has operated almost
exclusively through the three major “Bonn” parties, which for nearly
a half-century had governed through shifting coalitions. The Greens
arose as a social movement challenging this hegemony; yet, only fifteen
years after they first entered the Bundestag, they forged a federal
coalition with one of the established parties they had once attacked.
For the first time since 1957, a coalition had been formed that
involved not only a party other than the three “Bonn” parties but also
one not linked to the Federal Republic’s creation. It was, furthermore,
the first coalition ever to have resulted unambiguously from
the wishes of voters.
The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) celebrated its 140 years
of existence on 23 May 2003 with the appropriate fanfare in Berlin.
Not too many other political parties in the world can match this survival
record, especially given the hostility of Chancellor Bismarck,
who in 1878 outlawed the fledgling party as an organization for
twelve years, and of Adolf Hitler, who in 1933 drove the party into
exile for twelve years. During the post-World War II era, the SPD
reestablished itself as a major party and shared in governing the
country from 1966 to 1982 and again from 1998 to the present. It
has left an imprint on the country’s domestic and foreign policies.
But in the twenty-first century’s initial years, the SPD, despite being
in power, is facing serious problems of maintaining membership and
The role of Konrad Adenauer in the proceedings of the Parliamentary Council in Bonn and his decision after his election as first federal chancellor not to form a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party paved the way to a fundamental transformation of the traditional German democratic paradigm versus the Anglo-Saxon concept of interaction between government and parliamentary opposition. The inherited pattern of constitutional democracy that had contributed to the structural weaknesses of Weimar parliamentarism was replaced by the concept of an interaction between government and opposition. Political parties took on the primary tasks of securing stable parliamentary majorities and providing sufficient electoral support for the chancellor. Adenauer's resolved political leadership, therefore, was an indispensable contribution to the reorientation of West German political culture from the former distrust of unrestricted parliamentary sovereignty toward Western democratic traditions.